Editor's Note: Coahoma County Coach Derrick Moore was named the 2021 COACH OF THE YEAR in the Clarksdale Press Register, Best of Poll taken last month.
“I like challenges. I love challenges.”
Coahoma County High School basketball coach Derrick Moore used those words to describe his career path.
Moore was not the best basketball player on the court as a child, but under his leadership, the Red Panthers won four of the past five Class 2A Mississippi High School Activities Association state championships. He is a math teacher at the high school level, but English and science were his two best subjects as a child.
Moore grew up in Bobo, attended Sherard Elementary School, graduated from CCHS in 1996 and has been a teacher at his alma mater since 2003 and coach since 2004. His efforts and achievements earned him the Clarksdale’s Best coach of the year.
Even though Moore was not necessarily the star of the basketball team, he found a love for the game at a young age. His parents, Johnnie, who currently serves on the Coahoma County School District board, and Yvonne, always encouraged him.
“We grew up with bicycle rims, banana crates, playing on dirt in the backyard,” Moore said. “That’s how it started for me. Going from there, my dad, he got us a little basketball team and we started playing over there at Higgins. They had a little league over there called the Bobo Bulls.”
The Bobo Bulls were around in the late 1980s and early 1990s. That was the same time period Chicago and Detroit Pistons competed for NBA championships.
“Actually, he was a Detroit Pistons fan,” said Moore of his father. “I’m not quite sure why he would call it the Bulls. That’s what it was.”
From the very beginning, as a member of the Bobo Bulls, Moore was coaching.
“I played, but at the same time, I was that one person who thought I could put everybody in order,” Moore said. “‘You go here. You do this. You do that.’ Basketball was life for me. Seriously, I grew up. It was me, my best friend Earnest Holly, Bobby Williams, Teddy Moore, Terry Bailey and Dave Poston. We had our own little basketball group. We went from neighborhood to neighborhood.”
Neighborhoods included Friars Point, Jonestown, Tunica, around Tunica, Tallahatchie County, Marks, Farrell, Alligator and Duncan.
“If you said you were a legit basketball team, we came to your neighborhood,” Moore said.
As a member of the Red Panthers in high school, Moore’s teammates who were standout athletes included Lorenzo Edwards and Micheal Stringer. Stringer was two years ahead of Moore and is currently the Coahoma Community College men’s basketball coach.
Moore continued to pay attention in high school.
“You steal this,” Moore said. “You steal that. If you’re a good listener, that’s what it does. I listened well. I took in what I could take in. I’ve always enjoyed the game. I’ve always loved basketball.”
Moore currently stands at 6 feet, 5 inches and was tall a young boy.
Yvonne Moore said even though her son was tall, he did not have a lot of coordination.
“He was real awkward as a kid, real tall, real skinny,” Yvonne Moore said. “He was always tall. His feet were always bigger.”
But coming from Bobo, playing basketball in the backyard dirt, he did have a passion for the game.
“He had basketball parents,” Yvonne said. “It was a must. His dad played basketball, mom played basketball.
“In the community, that’s all there was to do, play ball. He was an average player. He played pretty good. His height was an asset to him. He had knowledge of the game even when his skills weren’t there.”
Yvonne said Moore played peewee football, but preferred basketball.
“You have to play ball,” Yvonne said. “You have to play some kind of sport living in that family.”
After graduating from CCHS, it appeared basketball would still have a role in his life, but it would be secondary to academics. Twenty-five years later, he has made a difference as both a teacher coach.
“I figured teaching would be the more,” Moore said. “I knew I loved basketball, but I thought I would be here on the longer run just teaching more than basketball.”
Moore attended Mississippi Delta Community College, then-Coahoma Junior College, Ole Miss, Delta State University and LSU. He earned his associates in arts and sciences from Coahoma Junior College in 1998, an undergraduate degree in math from Delta State in 2003 and a master’s in education from Delta State in 2009.
“Actually, the funny part about it, I was better at English and science, but math was always challenging and fun,” Moore said. “Math was probably the most fun subject. I’m better at science and English.”
Moore said teaching and coaching go hand-in-hand as both teach life lessons and require motivating students. He added being in the classroom allows him to be more hands-on with his athletes and motivate them to succeed academically.
Moore was an assistant coach for the Red Panthers varsity from 2004 to 2009. He was the junior high boys head coach from 2005 to 2015. One reason he was first given the job was former Lady Red Panthers coach Eddie Culley allowed the junior high to practice in the gym at 6 a.m.
“I’ve always gotten up early,” Moore said. “I’ve never been a person to sleep in.”
Moore’s first year as the junior high boys coach, the team went 6-4. The next year they competed for a championship and won the following season.
“Every year, we were playing for the championship it seemed like,” Moore said.
When Moore became a head coach at the varsity level in 2008, he still held practices at 6 a.m. He has not changed his philosophy 13 years later.
Moore succeeded Culley as the Lady Red Panthers head coach in 2008. They have advanced to several state tournaments the past 13 years and were Class 2A state runner-up in 2017 and 2020.
Moore was content coaching the junior high boys and high school girls. That changed when former CCHS principal Tony Young required Moore to coach the Red Panthers and Lady Red Panthers varsity teams. He has been the Red Panthers coach since 2015 and won four state championships in six seasons.
The Red Panthers won two back-to-back titles under Moore. The first time came in 2017 and 2018 and the second time came in 2020 and 2021.
Moore looked at coaching both varsity teams as yet another challenge.
He said a misconception many people have of him coaching both teams is he cannot fully prepare his athletes prior to games.
“It’s funny,” Moore said. “People think that, but we practice this stuff. In practice, we game plan to the fullest. In practice, we tell them exactly what it is. We talk to them as if we’re in the game. We’ve already scouted out what we need to scout out. We laid out the plan. They already know. Literally, we have a cheat sheet because we already have talked about everything we need to. People see it as I don’t really talk to them. The thing about it is we do.”
Yvonne said her son had many positive mentors through the years. He played for coach Walter Bishop in high school, worked with Culley and was an assistant for the Red Panthers during Isaiah Peterson’s tenure as head coach.
With Peterson as a head coach and Moore as an assistant, the Red Panthers won back-to-back championships in 2005 and 2006.
“You always have the desire,” Yvonne Moore said. “When you can’t play, you always can think about what you can do just as good. So when you can get somebody else to do what you’re thinking, then that makes it even better.”
Moore is happy to be making a difference for the school district he grew up in.
“When I started teaching, I’ve always wanted to be here,” Moore said. “It’s home to me.”